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Trump's Supreme Court Pick Could Be Announced Soon

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President-elect Donald Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees last May, then nearly doubled it a few months later, putting up ten more jurists as possible Supreme Court justices. He pledged to pick from those 21 in September, a claim Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager, reiterated after the election.

Now, Trump has narrowed his choices down even further, according to a report by Bloomberg's Greg Stohr. And he could be announcing his pick soon -- before, even, he's inaugurated on January 20th.

Criteria Points Toward Pryor and Sykes

Donald Trump has said that he wants a Supreme Court justice in the style of the late Justice Scalia: an originalist, Second Amendment hardliner, and consistent conservative. According to Stohr, he's also looking for someone young, to ensure he makes a lasting impression on the Court.

Trump's nominees are a bit of a break from the tradition Justice Scalia was a part of, though. Trump's list is full of state Supreme Court justices and judges on non-coastal circuit courts. Many of the picks didn't graduate from Harvard or Yale (alma maters for all of the current justices, minus Justice Ginsburg) and none of them came from the D.C. Circuit, often a feeder circuit for the Supreme Court.

Of those 21, the transition team has narrowed their focus to nine, according to Stohr:

Trump's criteria, as shared by a person familiar with his deliberations, point toward William Pryor and Diane Sykes, two federal appeals court judges he mentioned on the campaign trail, along with as many as seven other judges on a list released by the campaign in May. That list is the focus of the president-elect's deliberations, the person said.

William Pryor is a judge on the Eleventh Circuit, who entered public service in 1997 as the youngest attorney general in the United States, working as AG for Alabama. He's criticized the Supreme Court for being filled with "nine octogenarian lawyers," something the 54-year old judge could change if he is nominated. He's also called Roe v. Wade the "worst abomination in the history of constitutional law." His candidacy may be aided by his friendship with Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for U.S. attorney general, but his nomination could be contentious. As Stohr notes, he was only confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit after two years of highly partisan fighting.

The other forerunner, Diana Sykes, is currently on the Seventh Circuit. In true Scalia fashion, she's earned a reputation as a strong and regular dissenter, though she's also issued some interesting rulings, including one about artistic rights over wildflower gardens.

Seven More Under Consideration

Two Eighth Circuit judges, Steven Colloton and Raymond Greunder, reportedly also fit Trump's criteria. Colloton formerly clerked from then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist and served as associate independent counsel for Kenneth Starr. Greunder has a strong, conservative track record that includes consistent opposition to abortion rights.

Other names include Thomas Hardiman, a Third Circuit judge, Raymond Kethledge, of the Sixth Circuit, Thomas Lee, a justice on Utah's high court and pioneer of the use of 'corpus linguistics' in legal interpretation, Allison Eid, of the Colorado Supreme Court, and Don Willett, famous for his copious tweeting.

It's worth noting that none of these names come from Trump's September additions to the list. Those names were added, some commentators claimed, in order to attract the support of Senator Ted Cruz, who had previously refused to endorse Trump.

Of Trump's original 11, only Joan Larsen and David Stras don't seem to have merited a mention.

Donald Trump announced earlier in December that his pick would be made "pretty soon." It's been awhile since then, but Stohr's source says it's still possible that a name will be announced before the inauguration.

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